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MAKING HER CA JOURNEY WORK DESPITE ALL ODDS

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. This quote by Lao Tzu resonates with Zandile Thwala (nee Nkambule), who despite experiencing hardships in her journey towards completing her CA, made it against all odds. 

Born and bred in Manzini; in a lovely community called KaShali, which is located in the immediate outskirts of the vibrant city of Manzini, she is the fourth born child in a family of five. 

“I’m a pastor’s daughter and all my life I’ve been nourished with the Word of God,” she said. Her educational journey began at St Mark’s Primary School, but because she was a sickly child she had to be closer home so she then moved to Ngwane Park Primary School. 

She completed school at Manzini Nazarene High School and inspired by her passion for accounting and business studies, she enrolled for B. Comm Accounting at the University of Swaziland (now University of Eswatini). 

“Subsequent to my graduation I joined one of the biggest audit firms in the Kingdom of Eswatini (KPMG), where I served my audit articles for four years. That was the beginning of my journey to Chartered Accountancy. I wrote the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants Board Exams which I passed at first attempt,” narrated Zandi. 

That qualified her as a CA (SA). From KPMG, she joined Standard Bank in the Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) department where she served for one-and-a-half years until she joined Conco Limited where she worked in the Finance Department for about two-and-a-half years. 

“Thereafter (in September 2020),  I joined Silver Spoon Asset Management as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO); and I’m presently serving in that position. I’m married to a wonderful and very supportive man and we’re blessed with a beautiful daughter,” she bragged. I’m God fearing and all my life my pillar has been the Lord Almighty. I’m presently in my early 30s. 

Style (S): Who has inspired you in your life leading to where you are currently?

Zandi Thwala (ZT): A number of people inspired me into this journey. In particular, I can mention my two brothers, Mandla Nkambule, who works for World Vision Eswatini as Finance Manager and Sicelo Mahlalela, who presently works as Finance Director in one of the giant corporates in South Africa. 

S: When did your journey towards your CA begin and what inspired it?

ZT: As mentioned, my journey into being a Chartered Accountant began at KPMG where I served my audit articles. 

My personal mantra has always been becoming the best that I can be so when I joined the audit firm, I set a personal goal; to obtain the highest qualification in the accounting profession. While serving my articles, and through support from my then employer, I enrolled for a Certified Theory in Accounting Sciences (CTA ) course with the University of South Africa (UNISA). 

Trust me; it’s one of the hardest paths in the academic spectrum. More so, because when you happen to fail just one module you’re required to start all over again. It took me quite some time to complete this course, for two reasons; 

(1) since I had done my BComm at the University of Swaziland I had to start with a bridging course. 

(2) Being a part time, employed and married student, I didn’t have leisure time, yet the course was acutely demanding. But because I was determined to achieve my goal, I had no problem waking up as early as 3am on a daily basis, do my studies and go to work thereafter. 

Mind you; with this course one is given three attempts after which they are then taken off the programme. Having exhausted two attempts and left with only one, pressure mounted and I was caught in a tight corner. I felt like throwing in the towel. More so, because at that time I was expecting a child and had started on a new job. With words of encouragement from my husband, which I treasure even today, I made a bold decision to try one last time and guess what; I nailed it! Perhaps because at that time it was two brains in one flesh due to the pregnancy (giggles). 

What kept me going was the pie that lay ahead. I knew that, regardless of the huge cost involved and the pressure, if I managed to bag this qualification it would open many doors for me. I was secretly following and monitoring the success stories of a number of people in Eswatini, who are qualified Chartered Accountants. I told myself that if they managed to obtain this qualification then I also could. 

S: What challenges have you faced through this journey?

ZT: This was a bumpy journey, which required a lot of time and energy. 

I had to forget a bit that I was quite young and shelved all the fun that comes with being a young lady. I dedicated most of my time to books. Of course, questions like ‘solo awucedzi’ from friends were in abundance but that never derailed me as I had the end goal in mind.

S: Has it been a worthwhile journey and how? 

ZT: Oh, yes. The journey has been truly worthwhile. This qualification is well respected globally and it is an opportunity-opener. It’s truly paying off. Without meaning to brag, I’m presently one of the youngest CFOs in Eswatini. Most of all, through the journey I learnt that in life one needs to humble themselves. Don’t rush for microwave success. Develop a firm foundation and then all will be well. 

S: If you were to start all over again, would it be a journey you would consider, why?

ZT: Truly, speaking, I do not wish to go through this journey again. It’s extremely demanding. I don’t regret the bumpy ride though and I would recommend it to my children and other emaSwati. 

S: As a young person, what advice would you give to a person, who has similar aspirations as yours?

ZT: We all have dreams, but what determines whether or not we achieve those dreams is if we enjoy only dreaming about it or getting up and pursuing it. Know that you need to work extra hard for your dream. We all want to have fun at some point but do not allow fun to derail you. Discipline and consistency is important. Find yourself a mentor because you’ll surely need their support. 

S: Do you think the journey would have been easier regardless of the support system and structure you have had surrounding you. How are you grateful for the people who have supported you? 

ZT: Most certainly, I would not have managed without the support from my husband. He’s a very understanding man. He would put family projects aside just to support me financially. I was also not physically present some of the time, but he would understand. I don’t think many married men would tolerate being left alone in bed at 3am just because their wives are busy with books. 

Whenever I encountered challenges he was my shoulder to cry on. My parents also prayed for me incessantly. I truly appreciate that. I also appreciate their providing me with basic education because that was the springboard to my present success. I also appreciate my friends. 

For a long time I was hardly available friend, but they never gave up on me. We’re still friends even today. Most importantly, I thank my spiritual father at Zakhele FEA (Pastor L.S. Msibi). He always made it a point to pray for me when I was about to sit for my exams. 

S: Women have been made to take the backseat of things in life as in most societies and cultures, they are made to aspire to marriage and building a home, how has that not made you lose the focus of what you wanted to achieve in your life? 

ZT: I’m an avid reader. There’s a book that inspired me a lot. It’s titled ‘Nice girls still don’t get the corner office’. It talks about the mistakes that women make, which mistakes sabotage their career progression. I’d advise other women to read it. 

 

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